The challenge for this episode of The Great British Bake Off was to make a decorative loaf of any shape or flavor. For my decorative loaf, I decided to make star bread. To twist things up a bit (pun intended), I chose to use two different fillings, raspberry jam and a chocolate almond cream cheese.
When I saw that this week’s challenge was a chocolate cake, all I could think of was Bûche de Noël. I used a classic chocolate genoise sponge recipe as the basis for my showstopper, but I put my own take on the rest, with a coffee mousse filling and forest-floor-inspired decorations.
The challenge seemed simple enough: Bake a chiffon cake. My plan was to create a yin-yang cake, contrasting the traditional flavors of a black forest gâteau (dark chocolate and cherries) with a lighter version featuring amaretto and almond flavors: a black-and-white forest gâteau. This is a cautionary tale of the cake that almost wasn't.
Only the French would name a pastry after a bicycle race, but I messed with their tradition a bit. Originally, the Paris-Brest was filled with praline cream. I decided to mix it up and make a fruity variation, with mango curd as the base layer, followed by mascarpone cream and blueberries.
Free template! I made this gingerbread Eiffel Tower as part of my challenge to bake through the Great British Bake Off. This was my gingerbread structure for the showstopper challenge in series 3 (The Beginnings on Netflix, season 5 on PBS in the U.S.).
For my “enriched celebratory loaf,” I chose to make a king cake. I used a babka-like dough, and my filling was inspired by the colors traditionally found on top of a king cake: green for faith, purple for justice and gold for power. Combining lemon, lavender and pistachios with a poppyseed filling gave it an almost Middle Eastern quality.
When I think of the thin, flaky pastry surrounding a strudel filling, it reminds me of one of my favorite hors d’oeuvres served at fancy cocktail parties: spanakopita triangles! So I decided to make a strudel with a very similar filling—the fresh flavors of sautéed spinach, leeks and onions seasoned with lemon zest, nutmeg, fresh basil, thyme and a little bit of dill. I also used a combination of feta, parmesan and ricotta cheese.
Wanting to impress the Paul and Mary in my head, I sought to produce the “subtlety of flavors” that Paul was looking for and a pie that would achieve what Mary wanted—that “every single slice will look beautiful on the plate.” I decided to create a sweet crust pastry shell with crushed lavender, fill it with coconut cream, top that with a thin layer of lime curd and garnish it with lavender-infused mascarpone whipped cream.
This was a complicated challenge. The brief was to create a four-layer meringue dessert with “exciting fillings,” in the words of Mary Berry, “that will complement the meringue.” Once I had decided on the elements of my dessert, I laid out my plan: Two layers of dacquoise alternating with two layers of chocolate French meringue separated by coffee buttercream and fresh, whole raspberries.
I decided to make the best fruit tart I could muster using the building blocks of some of the best pastries on the planet—pâte sucrée for the base, crème patissiere for the filling, and beautifully arranged and gorgeously glazed fresh fruits and berries on top.